thinking of tolerance

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A newly found blog friend of mine, Corina, posts a regular sort of weekly post, in which she says, “If we were having coffee”, and then shares what’s been happening in her life, or some ideas she’s been thinking about. Turns out there are a lot of people who post their Weekend Coffee Share as a regular feature. Last week, when I was writing about the walk along the promenade opposite the old city in Jerusalem, I mentioned the monument to tolerance, and I thought I’d use this template to discuss tolerance this week.

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The monument was built by Aleksander Gudzowaty. And he carved his thoughts on the subject into stone, next to the sculpture, in Hebrew, Arabic, and English so that everyone might think about his inspiration for building this piece. When considering publishing the photo of the shrine, I couldn’t help thinking of how such righteous messages are received on the internet. There are so many fine posts regarding improved human relations, sensitivity to our fellow man, and peace. So how is it that within most societies, we see countless examples of needless cruelty, prejudice, and unfair treatment?

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What is the true measure of tolerance? Does it mean that when working alongside of a man or woman whose skin is of a different color than ours, we should treat him or her as an equal? Well to tell you the truth, I believe that a person who judges others by the color of their skin, is so unaware or stupid, that he might be a danger to himself. When I hear jokes about dumb blondes I have to make a quick exit to get a breath of fresh air. And on the other hand, someone who insists and preaches to us that blacks deserve equal rights to whites sounds much the same as someone who gets on a podium somewhere and announces to us that the world isn’t flat. So just maybe, tolerance demands that we listen to those who declare the obvious with respect and patience.

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It might mean that one who is a vegetarian or vegan have patience with those who eat cows and chickens, insects or frogs… for if we travel around the world, we find that there are those that eat horses, and those who eat dogs and cats. Tolerance is accepting the habits and customs of those unlike ourselves… as long as they don’t attack us or murder or kidnap our children. But at what point do we put an end to tolerance? There was a museum exhibit in New York, a number of years ago. As it happened, I was visiting there at the time, and heard the controversy first hand. It seemed that an artist of some sort was granted the opportunity to exhibit a little figurine of Christ on the cross in a bottle of piss. I don’t have to explain to you what this provocation did to those people who see Christ as a physical manifestation of god himself. There were those who felt the exhibit should be removed from the museum. Others felt that removing it would be a deathblow to freedom of speech, and the cultural enrichment of the American people.

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Sometimes it’s hard to know just how tolerant we should be if it is peace we truly desire. When one thinks of tolerance, one remembers all those circumstances in which we were bothered by the behavior of another, and overcame our immediate desire to make light of the taste or behavior of another. Perhaps some of us are too quick to take offense. Maybe we are insensitive to others, and don’t give them enough space… don’t respect their need to express themselves, or to follow their own intuition or beliefs. But is it possible to tolerate any and every affront… or attack. How do we design the borders of social behavior? I would like to ask you, my reader. Is there a point at which tolerance must stop? And what is that point?

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Where I’m staying as I write this post, I am about half a kilometer from a Moslem neighborhood. On schedule, a number of times a day, the local mosque broadcasts prayer calls at full volume, with powerful loudspeakers aimed in my direction. Even listening to the music, with the windows closed, the prayer is heard, disrupting all other sound. I do believe in the freedom to worship. But I find such practices disturbing.

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poster composed of paintings by children on the subject of ‘different but together’

Here in our country, we have neighbors who opposed our laws and believed that we had abused the rights of their co-religionists. They started shooting rockets at us. To insure that we wouldn’t strike back, they surrounded themselves with their own children while they were shooting at us. They would shoot at us and run away, leaving their children surrounding the rocket launcher. And when there was return fire, they held a press conference, waving the body parts of their children to show just how cruel we were.

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The monument found in Jerusalem is the work of an artist who appeals for sympathy regarding the beliefs and practices of others. But let me tell you how the concept of tolerance is used in mechanics or in building. When a part is made that has to configure within a machine or a physical system of any sort, it’s dimensions are cited by the engineer or designer. However, since an exact measure is often unobtainable, the tolerance describes the allowable deviation from a standard. For example, the range of variation permitted in attaining a specified dimension in machining a piece.

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sculpture by Ran Morin

Is it not necessary then, that we delineate our objectives in codifying human behavior within a social system before we speak of tolerance? Otherwise, we may find ourselves looking out at the world from behind the teeth of predator who is about to swallow us up and devour us, about to leave this world behind forever…

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67 responses to “thinking of tolerance

  1. Beautiful writing in beautiful thoughts dear Shimon. You expressed so nicely and I agree with you. And also you shared with us such a beautiful sculpture in thoughts again… Fascinated me but you know me, cat and dogs fascinated more than everything 🙂 so lovely they are. But let me ask this, what’s happening in the first photograph, coffee ? I haven’t seen something like that before, really I wonder what’s going on there and why?
    Thank you, have a nice weekend, love, nia

    • Hi there, my dear Nia. I was thinking of you a lot in the last few days because of the election… and it’s interesting how things do change when using democratic processes… even if it’s just a bit… That coffee maker makes espresso coffee, and came directly from Rome. I have one that is similar, but not really the same. And this was the first of this kind I had seen. Chana brought it back from Italy. It makes two cups of espresso coffee at the same time. All the best to you, and thanks.

      • Yes, dear Shimon, there was the election yesterday and democracy won! This is so nicei and hope for our future. You know, the dictator always gets lost…. Thank you, I didn’t know this was from Italy, interesting one. Have a nice day and week, love, nia

        • Thank you so much for your good wishes, Nia. I join you in your happiness. Wishing that things will keep getting better and better. Have a beautiful week.

  2. Good morning dear Shimon….as always an excellent post.
    My father-in-law in the States would always say ‘live by the golden rule’. In other words do unto others what you would hope to receive from them…..
    I try to live by this rule, however, I know that were my home to be invaded and my life violated, then my tolerance level would drop…substantially. I think it’s very easy for those who have never experienced such an invasion to play the ‘liberal limousine card’ –
    Love the photographs and message in this post, and of course the dog and cat are the stars:)
    Have a wonderful weekend. Janet. xx

    • Yes, I too believe in the golden rule. But unfortunately, there are some conventions that only really work if everyone is agreed on them. And others, that certain societies accept for themselves, but don’t give other societies the same consideration. To use a rather painful example, in the west there are minimum wage laws, and other such rules to protect workers. But these same people buy from countries across the world, where there are no such rules, and even children work in factories from morning to night. Step by step, we are learning to be more aware. But it’s a process. Always good to share thoughts with you, my dear Janet. My weekend was good. Hope yours was too. And now, for the new week. xxx

  3. Thought provoking Shimon. We often need to think before talking and consider others’ feelings.

  4. If we were having coffee, Shimon, we would be at the table for a very long time. This is a discussion for the ages, isn’t it? Very good post.

    • You know, Loisa, some people have a salon where all the chairs are facing the TV. And some have couches and easy chairs, and just a low coffee table to place some or treats in front of the guests. I’ve always had a high table in my living room, where my guests are welcome to put their elbows… or a cup of coffee in front of them… and my friends and I spend many an hour discussing what we’ve learned and what we’ve thought. Personally, it’s my favorite way to spend time together with the people I like… though we do listen to music a lot too.

  5. As always, much to ponder. To me, aren’t many of the problems throughout the world based on intolerance? … and aren’t all of us guilty of that in some form or another?

    • I agree with you, Frank, that we all fail at times to be considerate of our fellows. But though I do believe that it’s important to remember what we have in common, it’s no less important to accept the conventions of society at large. For instance, we all have to work to make a living. Some folks mine for coal, and some for gold, some are farmers, and some are factory workers, and the braver among us may be policemen, and then there are teachers and tradesmen too… but then there are also thieves and professional killers… Thanks very much for your comment.

  6. I’m at the stage where I try (fail and try again) to see myself in my judgments of others. By “binding” myself to them this way, I hope to easy the imaginary lines between us, and learn more about my own frailties and fears…but when I’m confronted by cruelties that the strong continue to visit upon those less able to defend themselves, or physical acts of violence that deny the power of peaceful conversation and degrade what I believe to be our finest potentials as humans, I can become very discouraged.

    Respecting our common humanity also demands we respect our rights to choose different paths in making meaning, but the “one and many” outlooks need to be balanced, a continuous process, I think. Blaring our prayer in ways that disturb others’ needs for silence is imbalanced. Prohibiting some to participate in a “democracy” because of their skin color is imbalanced. Beheading people with different perspectives is grotesquely imbalanced…

    As I grow older and ponder life’s mysteries, I believe more and more in relying upon kindness, deliberate periods of silence/prayer, and deep listening, all of which seem to help stay the tide against the profound anxieties that drive these imbalances.

    But I didn’t engage consistently with these practices when I was younger, and I don’t know that urging the current, younger (than I) people in power makes a difference, because they’re often not ready to hear it. Tolerance and intolerance can be taught, but they are also functions/results of our willingness to engage deeply, in a “well-examined” and self-critical practice, with our thoughts and actions and the motivations behind them.

    • I agree with you, Kitty, that balance is very important for our own well being and the well being of society as a whole. And what you say about people who are or aren’t ready to hear a message is also very important. I learned that as a father with my own children. Sometimes I tried to share something too early with my children, and they weren’t ready yet, to absorb the information. It seems to me that we’re all in the learning process. And as you say, a very important part of that process is becoming more sensitive and more empathetic towards others. And I do believe that each of us affects those around us, so that by relating to others with respect and good intentions, we have influence, even if the results are not immediate. Thank you so much for your comment, which adds much to the post, and is part of this conversation that I hoped to encourage… the sharing of the difficulties as well as the aspiration.

  7. There is an expression that says that ‘your freedom stops where mine begins’, so I’ll tolerate most things until they start impinging too much on my comfort zone.
    I am an Atheist, so religion doesn’t bother me until others try to ram it down my throat, that’s when I walk away. There is also the matter of good taste, of which nothing is written (they also say): I use Facebook regularly to keep in touch with distant friends and family, but there are many people who keep sharing pictures of animals or even people being ill treated, apparently to try and catch and penalise those who have committed such horrible acts. I find this most upsetting and all I can do is click on the option saying ‘I don’t want to see this’; the problem is that there are more and more of them and it’s coming to a point when FB seems to have lost its objective or at least the original idea of people sharing their experiences and news. I am seriously thinking about cancelling my account, as I keep finding it more and more annoying.
    We all have a breaking point or a line that we do not like to cross. Being a teacher in a school for difficult boys, I find myself stretching my limits all the time and things that would have never been tolerated at home or in school when I was growing up, I have to turn a blind eye to, but it eats me inside.

    • Yes, there is that problem of the over enthusiastic believer, who wishes to convert everyone to his or her beliefs. In the English speaking world, there is a saying, ‘live and let live’. This seems such a simple and understandable approach to the differences between people. But unfortunately, not all people subscribe to this attitude. And though we see a universal longing for peace, the world’s history is filled with war and cruelty, both on a personal level and international. I can only hope that the ever growing ease of communications between people will lead to greater understanding and cooperation. Thank you so much for your comment, Fatima.

  8. You raise many good questions, Shimon. I cringe when I hear of women all over the world–and I know it also exists in hidden pockets here in America–who are considered property, kept as prisoners in their own home, sold or married off as powerless children, mutilated against their will, or stoned to death for breaking rules they don’t agree with, even though these are all traditional cultural practices of some society or other.
    I realize I am judging by my own cultural values, and that someone looking into my culture would be appalled at our practices. But still it disturbs and saddens me.
    Human rights/individual rights, tolerance/intolerance, are issues that seem simple and self-explanatory, but they become very complicated when you look at them through the lens of another culture.

    • You bring up a very interesting and difficult point in understanding others and learning to live with other cultures. Actually, we can’t help judging others by our own experiences. Sometimes we’re right. But sometimes the way we see cultural phenomena is overly influenced by our own values, experience, and education. Sometimes, in my country, I’m distressed at the way women and children are treated by certain sub cultures in our population. But often, I hear those very same women defending those standards, and other beliefs that I find very hard to understand. Not only that, but I’m aware that some people look at our women as prostitutes just because they show a bit too much skin according to their standards. What’s worse, they sometimes behave that way to a stranger, without the slightest hint of shame. And when I think about it, I realize that my education was also ‘bestowed’ upon me against my will; that I had no choice about a lot of crucial decisions when I was growing up. It’s part of life itself. And so your last sentence, Naomi, says it all. And still, in the spirit of kindness and respect, we would like other cultures to be a little more aware of our own values. Thanks so much for your comment.

  9. The problem with the discussion of tolerance is that we all have our own definition of tolerance. As you pointed out, where do we draw the line? Perhaps the real issue is the unwillingness of those who demand tolerance to accept that there are people who will never “cooperate.” They don’t want to cooperate. They cannot be made to cooperate. Tolerance is a feel-good rallying cry, but how can you have something that has no set definition? As long as there is an unwillingness to define certain behaviors as right and wrong, there is nothing on which to build “tolerance.”

    • Very well said, Judy. Though I do believe that within a limited framework, we can exercise tolerance just as we do democracy. It is next to impossible to enforce democracy on a street gang. But within our own limited society, democracy may work very well. We can’t force a society hostile to our values to show empathy or sympathy, but again… within our society, it’s possible. Thank you for your comment.

      • I’m sorry I don’t remember who said it, but you describe his sentiment: Democracy is the worst form of government, but it’s better than everything else. 🙂

        • I’m not sure that it’s the worst form of government, Judy. I can think of a few that are worse. But it certainly isn’t perfect. All the same it seems to work better than all the other possibilities today.

  10. I have a couple of those ‘metal petals’, I have never used them as heat diffuser plates. I bought them as flexible steamers, to pop into a pan, of whatever size suits the quantity of, let’s say, vegetables, I may want to steam cook. It’s an analogy for your theme of tolerance of differences. I am tempted to give diffusion a try!

    As usual, you raise a host of deep questions about tolerance together with some that, as you say, are practical and obvious. Prejudice and I hesitate to say it, culture too, can and do create blindness and distorted thinking about the practical and obvious. There is never one single solution, one size will never fit all. Even compromise has to be clothed and defined to be culturally acceptable. It will always be an inexact ‘science’.

    I take your points on your local experiences.

    I am very impressed with the monument and what it represents.
    You offer insights to possible broad answers, though solutions are still elusive in many situations, sad to say.

    Hm, I see striped tabby has usurped Nechama again. 😉

    • I agree with you, menhir, that culture too, like prejudice, creates blindness. And there is no single solution. On the personal front, I can assure you that Nechama is not suffering from neglect, and that her day to day adventures reflect my own, and in many ways, she is the mirror in which I can measure my own welfare. Fortunately, she’s expressed no jealousy regarding Charlie. Thanks very much for your comment.
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  11. Profound issues here. Yes, I do believe that there has to be a limit to certain types of tolerance – I don’t think it’s possible to live in a single-issue way. All our ethics impinge on and affect each other. We also live in a world where in some cultures, tolerance is not considered a good thing: and in others, nobody can agree on what we should be tolerant of! There are so many intermeshed issues here with no easy answers. That doesn’t mean that we should stop asking the questions or trying to find a way through.

    • I do believe we need tolerance, Gill; that life would be too harsh… too mean without it. But as in my illustration of tolerance in mechanics, we have to establish the measure of tolerance. We are constantly challenged. Getting older, I realize that there is no real retirement in life. That no matter how long we live, the tests keep coming, and we have to continue to learn, and to try and find our answers to the never ending problems of life. Thanks very much for your comment.

  12. What beautiful pictures! I especially love the dog and pup, the water lily and Charlie!
    Tolerance……yes, we all have to work at it for sure, I find it gets easier as we get older, it is far harder for many young hotheads to exercise it……
    I see being tolerant much the same as being reasonable or moderate. Gardeners need to tolerate a few weeds and nettles in the garden in order for the eco system to survive….as a veggie/vegan, I am tolerant towards those who eat meat but tolerance ends for me when any kind of deliberate cruelty or suffering is involved, towards animals or people, then I think action is required to ban/ prevent such practices. Suffering is extreme, as are rocket attacks and then tolerance is no longer a healthy response….I think there is, and always has been a battle going on in this world, there have always been those who are prepared to exercise tolerance and those who will simply not ever consider such an option.xxx

    • So glad you enjoyed the pictures, Dina. Sometimes it’s hard to find just the right photos to accompany a piece like this that deals with abstract concepts. I know we think alike on a great many issues. And so I have to admit that I added that business of tolerance towards meat eaters especially to challenge those who might take it for granted that they are tolerant people. And what I found most interesting about your comment, was “I am tolerant towards those who eat meat but tolerance ends for me when any kind of deliberate cruelty or suffering is involved”. Because I have found in my own life, that no matter how much I desire peace, there is always a challenge that makes me look like a ‘bad guy’. I remember being in a very classy restaurant, and someone next to me ordered lobster, and they put this sea animal directly into a pot of boiling water! And needless to say, even if I were to know that someone butchered a cat in a humane way (with as little suffering as possible), how could I sit across from him as he was eating that shank? Yet my dear cat thinks nothing of tearing a bird apart and eating it raw. There is a certain cruelty in nature that it is hard for some of us to bear… Ultimately, I think that we who are more sensitive, have to learn to live with the barbarians too. And hopefully, our tolerance will bring a more peaceful world. Thanks so much for your comment. xxx

  13. As clergy I participated in Jewish/Christian Dialogue of Montreal, a monthly meeting of various clergy, including rabbis, priests, members of Canadian Jewish Congress–maybe about a dozen of us altogether. The whole point was to go beyond tolerance. Tolerance is the bare minimum of human relations. I personally don’t want to be tolerated. I need to be understood. And in those years, we Jews and Christians sought synergy, community, a cherishing of one another’s traditions. Here, now, my physician is an Islamabad Muslim, and we engage in conversations supposed to be about my health but more about how it is to physically endure Ramadan, and how the fasting rigours address the needs of one’s soul. Truly, in the end, there is only one way to tolerate a prayer tower in one’s face. We have no choice but to go over there and find out who they are, what they enjoy eating, how many children they have, where they went to school, their favourite TV shows, and how we can become closer. Your postings are always a great tonic, Shimon.

    • I do think it’s a sign of progress, and it gives me great hope to hear of Christians and Jews getting together, and learning to respect each other’s beliefs. As it happened, I myself had very good luck… and with it, the opportunity to relate to other ethnic groups without problems. When I was a young man, before I was married, I had an Arab house mate, and we shared our living quarters without conflict, and with joy. However, this was on a one to one basis. We even became friends with each other’s family and friends. But when dealing with Arab neighborhood that borders with mine, I can not ignore that the society as a whole is against me. Arabs can live in the Jewish neighborhood, but woe to the Jew who enters the Arab neighborhood. When there is an act of aggression or terrorism against Jews, the neighboring Arab community celebrates. If I were to put up a loudspeaker on my roof, desiring to share the jazz music I love with all my neighbors, the police would be at my door within half an hour. But the Arab calls to prayer penetrate all the houses around, and no police intervenes. In fact, I don’t want conflict. I don’t want to ‘show them’ how uncomfortable it is. Because that would lead to unnecessary conflict… but hoping that they will become more sensitive to my needs is a little like waiting for the second coming. We can only hope that time will bring understanding and some measure of tolerance. Thanks Lance, for your very interesting comment.

  14. Enjoyable and thought provoking. Growing up, and schooling thru and beyond medical school, I rarely drank coffee. Where it seemed almost everybody else did and found me “abnormal”. My wife now, is an addict ( I think) and drinks.sips, nonstop. So, now I have taken up an enjoyment to a daily coffee in the morning…but it must be cold and at least a little sweet. All that said, I remember the Christ piss thing and felt a bit revolted. I have not read the Quoran (sp) but it appears that there is a short area in it that demands death to non believers. That…to me…is the end of my tolerance. I’ve had to deal with muslim doctors and it was pathetically intolerant. Yes, there does have to be a limit. I would suggest that most religions cover that most adequately and only this small, but growing group…instilling it in their children…carry on the tradition that must be stopped. I grow intolerant! Now I like a cappuccino at night.
    Be well Shimon.

    • My dear friend Bob, I am sure your spelling is more reliable than my own. Since we use different letters, I usually transliterate local words phonetically. In any case, it is true that the Koran suggests that the best way to convince a non believer of the virtues of the Moslem faith, is by way of the sword. But if we look into the old testament, which was the basis of Jesus Christ’s beliefs, we find that charming story of Joshuah trying to bring enlightenment to the old city of Jericho. I’m sure you remember, that at the end of the story, ‘the walls came tumbling down’. I suppose that we’d like to believe that flower power alone could bring universal love to all people. But there are those who just don’t believe in compromise. Always enjoy hearing from you. best wishes.

  15. I know that I do judge, that I’m less tolerant, less empathetic, and less respectful than I want to be. Many of my perceptions are based on my own fears, often fueled by self-centeredness. I think my judgements are righteous, the “most” right, correct, or accurate. My knowledge only reveals to me that I have work to do and lots of practice ahead of me. After all, it’s “practice,” I never finally “get it” or graduate. I even have to question whether I’m posting this to sound righteous, the most humble of replies by my own admissions of imperfections (and therefore should get kudos for telling on myself.) Ahhhh… my thinking can be such a pain in the…

    Thank you Shimon, for waking me up… again.

    • Hi there, Erika. We all keep learning all our lives, trying to improve… trying to understand this world better. But though we don’t know all the answers, that doesn’t reduce the importance of our learning. If we’re making the motions, and yet standing in the same place, something is wrong. But even in such a case, there’s usually a way to figure out the problem and move forward. self-centeredness is often a problem of the young. The more we learn, the less we focus on self, and the more aware we are of the larger picture. Fear is a very important sign of danger… helpful in an emergency, but not something we want to live with in the long run. Maybe it’s a bit early for you to judge. Have patience, and follow your curiosity. I’m sure you’ll find many an adventure that will bring you joy and understanding.

  16. I think you cannot have a conversation if only one person is talking, and I think tolerance is like a conversation – both sides must show tolerance. Some groups demand respect and tolerance, but fail to reciprocate. Others are not even interested in the conversation. But we must work on this in our increasingly diverse world.

    • I agree with you completely, yearstricken. We have to learn to relate to one another, And with respect and consideration for those around us, we will be able to look out for the common good and allow personal drives and aspirations as well. Only then, when people are cooperating, can tolerance help to make this world a better place. I really liked your example of the conversation as an example of human relationships. Reciprocity is highly important. Thanks very much for your comment.

  17. A smashing post as always Shimon. We must work towards going beyond tolerence if we are to truly live in peace as one of your commentators mentioned. This has to be a reciprocal arrangement though doesn’t it? When the people we are constantly being exhorted to tolerate by our liberal politicians have discrimination and intolerence hard wired into their whole belief system, I struggle to understand how we can even start the necessary dialogues. If we’re all busy being tolerent and others are not playing, we leave ourselves hugely vulnerable don’t we?

    • We *cannot* tolerate criminal acts such as you discribe regarding rocket attacks behind human shields. A civilized world *will not* tolerate such barbarism. Such people must be made to face the consequences of their actions through measured resistance and pursuit of justice through international legal processes.

      There is no religious/theological justification for assault with intent to murder, and child endangerment as personal defense and propaganda. The leaders of these extreme actors are the most culpable. They brutalize their own people in pursuit of a perverse version of divine justice. The end never justifies the means where murder, brutality, and barbarism are the means.

      • Yes, Rick. I think you put the situation in proper perspective. Tolerance is one of the many tools that enable us to cooperate and live healthy lives in a civilized society. But when people violate the norms that we’ve come to count on in society, their demands become laughable. It’s like encountering a thief or a murderer in the docket who is filled with resentment towards society, and complains bitterly that the house of justice is not democratic enough, and that no one has the right to judge him. Sometimes we encounter an entire society that lives by its own ideals in opposition to the historic values that civilized men and women have established. We’ve seen such things in history. But looking back, we have no doubt, who were motivated by a love of man, and who were the barbarians.

    • Yes, we agree on this, Chillbrook, and with Lance and yearstricken too. Tolerance alone is not enough. It can’t really fix the problem if we have one. If we’re already cooperating, and aware of the common needs, then tolerance can help us overcome differences. But it’s a mistake to raise a flag bearing just one of many positive characteristics of healthy relations between members of a society, and to expect to solve all problems. Very well said, and thanks for the comment.

  18. As one responder alluded, were we discussing these issues over coffee, the discussion would go on for hours and hours. You offered many challenging thoughts and situations……and lovely photographs. Thank you.

    So often, my own ‘intolerance’ comes from being self-centered or unthinkingly judgmental – and forgetting my lifelong habit of trying to remember to put myself in the other person’s place to see what the view is from there. Sometimes I have to give myself a mental slap to adjust my attitude. Sometimes I fail. I believe most of us who believe in the tenet of tolerance can say the same. These instances are on a personal level. However, when *group* situations involve the demanding of so-called ‘tolerance’ (by the other side) without reciprocating, then we step into the arena of bullying, at the least. These are ‘my-way-or-nothing’ attitudes that we see among some cultures, religions and races. These are selfish and often ignorance-based giant temper tantrums with one-sided demands and huge repercussions at the political, racial, religious and national levels. Where to draw the line? I have no good answer. Tolerance comes from within. It cannot, in my opinion, be legislated. Many other thoughts, my friend, are zinging around in what serves as my brain; too many to drag out this post any further. I enjoyed the mental exercise you provoked. Thank you.

    • It is always a great pleasure to get together with friends and discuss our different problems in learning to live with life… sometimes making the concessions necessary when we’re willing to live and let live. It helps us gain perspective. And that was my aim in this post. I think one of the things that has really added to our collective understanding, here at our coffee get together, is the call for reciprocity. We have to work together in order to have a society worth while. Tolerance by itself is not enough. And what you say about our personal deviations when faced with unexpected behavior patterns is quite true. Sometimes we’ll have something truly outlandish pushed in our faces, and our first reaction is a big no and rejection. But if we do see ourselves as open minded and tolerant people, we have to take a second look. We have to check if the challenge really justifies rejection. This is the give and take that is part of healthy relationships. Temper tantrums can bring out our own stubbornness and rejection. But if what we’re facing is one sided; if those who criticize our intolerance have no tolerance for us, then it’s a different story. Then we have to deal with being attacked… and we have to defend ourselves. Thanks so much for your comment, Myra.

  19. Here in the U.S., tolerance too often is confused with unthinking acceptance of what is, and tinged with sentimentality. Our cultural solipsism and rampant relativism only make things worse. If everything is acceptable, what, then, of cultural norms? Ethics? Morals? If not everything is acceptable, who draws the line? When? Where?

    It occurs to me that, in my country, we’ve come to the point where we tolerate everything, and respect nothing. We prefer easy lies to hard truths. If we were granted solid, truth-speaking, tough leadership that was willing to take a clear-eyed look at the world around us and name our enemies for what and who they are, I’m not sure we would accept them.

    I’ve been in Franco’s Spain, and watch my luggage rifled: literally. I’ve been detained for a bribe at an African border. I’ve been pulled from a taxi, had my passport taken from me by a man carrying a weapon, and had to buy it back. The world out there isn’t always pretty, and anyone who doesn’t ask themselves, “Will I tolerate this? That? What will I do?” is in denial. Eventually, the day comes to us all when we are required to take a stand. If we practice with the small things, we’ll be more ready for the large.

    • Your first paragraph, Linda, was just the sort of answer I was hoping for when I wrote this post. I agree with you completely, that better a hard truth than those easy lies. Life is filled with beauty and pleasure, but to embrace cancer and pollution because we want to see love in everything is childish and self destructive. Such naïve attitudes appear regularly as we make progress in dealing with human nature and the problems of life… they are fashionable for a while, and then are replaced by some new fashion. Reactions and philosophical views can be stamped out in any mold. We have to examine those things that challenge us through a desire to learn and understand. And as you say, be willing to reject and fight those things that affront our basic values. Thanks very much for your comment.

  20. Tolerance to me seems an acceptance of what we cannot change. Sometimes we can change it but accept that we should not. Usually we do not accept that we cannot change it and grumble in disbelief that our good nature is not naturally accepted. Thanks for the wonderful timely insight

    • I appreciate your viewpoint, anonnickus. It’s true. There are things in this life that we can’t change. And we do have to accept them. There are also things that change very slowly… like the movement of icebergs and mountains on the face of the planet… sometimes the norms of society are like that. But they do change. I am by nature an optimist, but I try not to be too naive. Thanks very much for your comment.

  21. Tolerance stops when a person or country is doing something that is harmful to themselves or society. For example, I can tolerate a man drinking a beer or two, but if that causes him to beat his wife and children, then it is no longer tolerable to me.

    • You’re raising a very interesting issue, Bev. I too feel revulsion when a man beats his wife. And even more so when he hits his children, because they have fewer defenses and are dependent on him. But still, there is that question… to what degree do we want to enter the private space of the individuals in our society. I don’t know that much about your country, but in our country we have more and more laws that influence the private lives of individuals. And often, making more laws does not solve the basic problems. I know that in your country they made laws against drinking alcoholic beverages, for instance. And after a period of time they had to repeal those laws because they only made matters worse. When my children were little, I used to send them to the corner grocery to buy cigarettes and a beer for me. But now such a thing would be illegal. That in itself doesn’t bother me. But I am beginning to think that we have way too many laws, and people don’t always respond to them in a way that improves society. But we have to judge each issue separately. On the whole, I agree with you that we can’t be tolerant towards everything. There are some things around us that we aren’t willing to tolerate. Thanks.

      • I have to agree that we have way too many laws. I think they tend to point out all the illegal things to attempt, and sadly some people enjoy that. Myself, I stay out of other people’s space as much as possible, but like you do not like to see children or pets being harmed.

        • I put the emphasis on children because I believe that if a man beats his wife, she has a responsibility to herself to leave him and get a divorce. It seems to me that there are a lot of ways for people who are tied intimately, to hurt one another. And very difficult to judge who started it and who was worse. So when it comes to an intimate relationship that has gone wrong, I feel that the best thing is divorce. If we have married someone, we have a certain measure of responsibility for that relationship… even if it was a mistake. If it was a mistake, we should fix that mistake and go on with our lives. But children didn’t choose to be born to a particular set of parents. And often they are helpless.

  22. I don’t know what tolerance really mean… you say “that one who is a vegetarian or vegan have patience with those who eat cows and chickens, insects or frogs… for if we travel around the world, we find that there are those that eat horses, and those who eat dogs and cats”.
    I guess I can’t endure this type of tolerance just thinking about someone eating one of my cats since this is his nutritional’s way and customs.
    Or would you think about someone roasting your lovely Nechama just because of his habit of eating cats?
    Tolerance has several levels, subjectives and objectives. There isn’t just the no-return-point in the meaning of being attacked or murder or kidnap…
    If tolerance is accepting the habits and customs of those unlike ourselves… why even listening to the music, with the windows closed, of the muslim’s prayer, you find disrupting all other sound… Why do you find such practices disturbing?
    I use to tell both my kids that my freedom ends where start theirs… and they don’t like me saying this. But this is true.
    What point do we put an end to tolerance? This is a really good question. I don’t know. Either I don’t know at which point tolerance must stop…
    Have a lovely week :-)c

    • My dear Claudine, my purpose in this post was to raise a difficult subject and discuss it from a rational point of view. You are right. I suffer terribly at the thought of someone roasting my dear cat Nechama, just to satisfy his appetite. But a few years back, we actually encountered such a problem here in my country. Foreign workers came to do jobs that our local people were not inclined to do, and all of a sudden we had the problem of our pets disappearing. And then it turned out that these people from the far east were trapping these animals and eating them. It was shocking. Truthfully, I feel the same sense of communion and love for a cow that I feel towards cats. I have made friends with them… and even had conversations with them… and other four legged friends as well. But I can’t deny that meat eating is an accepted norm throughout the world. I remember, years ago, making friends with a Jew who immigrated to Israel from India after living all his life there. I asked him, how do the gentiles relate to Jews in India. Oh, they are a wonderful people, he told me. Always friendly and positive. Even on our holidays, when my family used to make a big meat dinner to celebrate, they, who didn’t eat meat, and venerated cows, would come over and offer their blessings as we sat around in the backyard eating our banquet. In my eyes, this is true tolerance. The ability to see the good in others, and to bless them, even when they have customs that are in direct opposition to our own. Even though the Moslem’s prayers do disturb me in my own home, and prevent me from listening to music… sometimes even prevent me from having a pleasant conversation… I don’t go running over to disturb them. I hope that they will learn to consider my feelings and sensitivities, and that we will learn to live in peace. Thank you very much for your comment, and know that I have the greatest admiration for your love of all living creatures. But let’s remember that the cats eat birds, and the birds sweep down to kill and eat mice and worms and other forms of living creatures. Sometimes it is hard to bear the reality around us.

  23. Such a thought provoking topic, and one where there definitely isn’t one single answer. I have none, myself! Tolerance levels are something that can’t be objectively measured and accounted for, because humans just don’t work that way. All it takes is subjectivity and one touchy subject to explode out past the tolerance levels of someone and the person crumbles.

    • Thanks very much, Jess. It’s true, this is a very subjective issue. And I do believe that most people will take tolerance only so far. When posting this piece, I was hoping that together, we might find the best way to relate to the issue. And I’m very happy to say that I feel I learned quite a bit from the comments I received. There were a lot of good ideas written here. And I thank all my readers, and especially those who commented.

  24. I agree that tolerance can go too far when it comes to tolerating (and thereby facilitating and condoning) someone/something that is a danger to the whole. We all need to be careful not to ignore that which could hurt not only us but our neighbor.

    This was a wonderful post. It is full of things we should all be thinking about.

    • Oh Corina, how good it is to see you here. You see, it was thanks to you that I decided to turn this post into a coffee klatch. And it seems to me that the exchanges broadened my understanding of this issue. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. And it is always a great pleasure to see your smiling face on your icon. Best wishes for health and happiness.

  25. I would love to sit and have a cup of coffee with you Shimon. Excellent post as usual.

    • Thank you very much, Edith. I am sure I would enjoy it too. And since you do visit here from time to time, who knows what awaits us around the corner.

  26. Shimon – as always, your blog is a good place to stop. Tolerance. It sounds good. Apple pie and baseball, as we say over here. But sometimes, the devil (or angel, if you prefer) is in the details. Tolerance of what? Tolerance of what intent?

    And another thing, why can’t they turn off those noisy speakers and keep to themselves? Why should anyone else have to put up with that?

    • Ah Bruce, sometimes when people think they have the only truth available, it seems to them that they’re doing humanity a favor, by shouting it as loud as they can. And so it’s a challenge for the rest of us to deal with such a thing, without turning it into a war. But again, part of the problem is knowing where to draw the line. Thank you very much for your comment. Always good to hear from you.

  27. Dear Shimon, a wide ranging topic that touching on many levels. Everyone has their own operating system and we can only run our own…so where does the tolerance line get drawn. We have, by the very nature of humanity, a need for boundaries with others as protection. Change starts within each of us, so I try to flow with kindness in all things and step away where necessary. Everyone has the right to chose their own beliefs and operating systems. Acceptance of this and choosing to step away when we may lose our own balance…is that tolerance? Hugs Xx

    • I agree with you, Jane, that knowing when and where to step away, is an important part of tolerance. We don’t have to be involved with everyone. We don’t have to confront anyone who chooses a different path from our own. People have the right to be wrong, to make mistakes, And it is to our advantage no to take everything so seriously, and to maintain that balance. Wishing you a beautiful day and an inspired week. xxx

  28. The thoughtfulness and broad scope of this post, I think, could only come from someone of a certain age. I am glad your message is getting out there.

    • Thanks very much, bluebrightly. Age does help us gain a certain perspective in life. But there have been many who have inspired us and taught us from a very early age. The one thing that keeps us going, is hope.

  29. Very nice! I also loved the cat!

    • Thanks for coming by, Bruce. You might find some interesting posts by clicking on the ‘cats’ tag at the top of the post. I think I’ve seen some cats on your blog too.

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